The 148th playing of The Open Championship (think British Open) begins Thursday as the final major of the revamped big four of golf takes place.
The tournament actually starts Wednesday late night on the West Coast with the first players teeing off at 10:35 p.m. PDT.
In recent history the Open was the third leg of the yearly grand slam, but the PGA was moved to earlier in the calendar year, leaving the Open as, to borrow the phrase from the PGA on years gone by – “the last chance at glory.”
The tournament is also being held at Royal Portrush in Ireland, a course that hasn’t been in the rotation since 1951.
The location of the course allows for 16.5 hours of daylight each day, allowing for the players to all tee off the first tee on Thursday and Friday without danger of not finishing their rounds due to darkness.
Because of all the players going off the first tee during the first two rounds, the tee times are spread over nine hours making for a long day of watching. Check the TV coverage to get a better idea.
Television coverage is as follows (all times PDT): Thursday and Friday, Golf Channel 10:30 p.m.-1 p.m.; Saturday, Golf Channel 2 a.m.-4 a.m., NBC 4 a.m.-12 noon; Sunday, Golf Channel 1 a.m.-4 a.m., NBC 4 a.m.-11 a.m.
Following are what I think are some of the more interesting tee times/groups in the first round. All times are Pacific Daylight Time.
11:52 p.m. – Phil Mickelson, Shane Lowry, Branden Grace; 1:14 a.m. – Henrik Stenson, Xander Schauffle, Graeme McDowell; 1:58 a.m. – Francesco Molanari, Bryson DeChambeau, Adam Scott; 2:09 a.m. – Rory McIlroy, Gary Woodland, Paul Casey; 2:20 a.m. – Rickie Fowler, Kevin Kisner, Hideki Matsuyama; 4:53 a.m. – Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Thorbjorn Olesen; 5:04 a.m. – Brooks Koepka, Louis Oosthuizen, Shubhankar Sharma; 5:26 a.m. – Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, Danny Willett; 6:48 a.m. – Justin Rose, Tony Finau, Lucas Bjerregaard; 6:59 a.m. – Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley; 7:10 a.m. – Tiger Woods, Matt Wallace, Patrick Reed; 7:21 a.m. – Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Matt Kuchar.
So how does the Open shake out?
Contenders: Well, it is a major, so Koepka figures to be in hunt come Sunday. Dustin Johnson is another that should be right there, as will McIlroy as the Irishman plays in his home country. Come Sunday if Rory is making a run, expect a crazed Irish crowd. Guys that can putt also have to figure in and that brings Fowler into play. If Spieth has his putting stroke back, I fully expect him to make a run as well. Defending champion Molinari has to be considered a threat as well, but after he got Tigerized in the Masters, he has to step back up again.
Could get it done: Normally I would have Tiger in the mix but I have to think it’s tough to come back into a major with a break like he has had. He can get away with it at Augusta where he knows every nuance. That’s not the case at Royal Portrush so how the break bothers him remains to be seen. Guys like Woodland, Rahm, DeChambeau, Schauffele, Thomas, Rose and Casey all viable threats.
Could surprise: Watch a player like Kuchar that can hit it a mile but can also show touch. Finau, Kisner and Fleetwood are players I like to possibly make a run.
By Dennis Miller